Let me set the scene for you. It was a picture-skew spring’s day, one where you leave work and marvel at the way it’s still light outside. There I was on the bus, oblivious to the world, with Brandon Boyd singing in my ear. I was on my way to my girlfriend’s.
A few stops along (or roughly towards the end of Pendulous Threads) and a gaggle of (well, three) girls gets on the bus, sitting themselves at the back. Irritatingly, I can hear them over the blare of my (fairly loud) music. I pay their obnoxiousness as little heed as possible, which is somewhat of a feat. Well, not too great a feat – I’m busy texting my girlfriend.
Minutes pass and we get to the ladies’ stop. They make to leave. The last one grabs my phone.
Yeah, I was surprised too. Plus, I didn’t have the benefit of a narrative to point them out.
So I jump up. I like to think I leapt heroically to my feet, my manly frame calling to mind Ajax, Agamemnon or Achilles, but it was probably closer to a Startled Glaswegian than a Great Greek. I shouted something along the lines of “hey” or “oi”, and ran down the bus. As I strode I said – as firmly as I could – “Give me my phone back,” in a tone that definitely implied something Hellenic, while I resisted the urge to add, screaming “you FUCKING BITCH”. She turned to make good her her escape.
Luck had it that I used to be a goalkeeper for my school team, and was as such blessed with (or developed out of critical necessity) good reaction times. I grabbed her wrist. Unfortunately, it was not the one attached to the hand that possessed my phone.
What then ensued was an odd, awkward dance. Her twisting, keeping her other hand as far away from me as possible, all the while shouting various threats and obscenities; me trying to keep ahold of her, reaching for that elusive hand, repeating in ever-louder, ever-firmer tones, “Give me my phone back.” I heard her friends telling her to “jist leave it” and “gie ‘im it back” but she was having none of it. No, she would rather make me out to be the attacker. Mind you, I did have a long dark coat on, and to be honest, the rest of the bus was either bewildered or trying to pay no heed – an even greater feat than mine. They were reading their papers furiously.
In the middle of our grim dance down the bus, she shouts “Let go or I’ll smack ye”. And she did. Several times, as it happened. She caught me once (or twice) in the face with my phone. I did my best to ignore the ignominy of being struck with my own device.
Very quickly we were at the front of the bus. This presented a problem – should she escape I would face a dilemma: pursue her and retrieve my phone, or stay on the bus with the rest of my gear. Luckily, there was one good Samaritan on the bus. A guy who had been waiting with me at the bus stop. He grabbed her arms, which achieved two things: displeased her no end, and allowed me to finally wrench my phone from her grasp. He then let her go and she scurried off the bus to catch up to the rest of her coven.
To him, I am beyond grateful. Unfortunately, I walked back my seat without thanking him, and he got off the bus. I’ll be watching out for him, and I won’t forget his face.
So, I had my phone, and other than a few very minor cuts to my face, no real damage had been done. My question, ladies and gentlemen, is why? Did she not expect me to respond? Or to give up once she started shouting or hitting me? Was she drunk? The yobettes’ behaviour had certainly been slightly odd. Who knows. I’d like to use it as a data point to add to the set of “the decline of British society”, but truth be told, I have a hard time accepting it is as simple as that.
It’s a nice theory and all, that we’re getting worse. It makes for good tabloid articles, and we can all nod in agreement at how Britain is going down the tubes, and how people drink too much nowadays and take part in loutish behaviour, and how there is no respect for neighbours, the community, the police, etc etc. But within this story comes the counterpoint. Someone leapt to my defence. Someone else put their neck on the line (female or no, a headbutt does damage. Just ask any recipient of a ‘Glesga Kiss’. Or anyone who has been kneed in the nuts…), not to mention taking a risk legally – if she’d gotten hurt, you can bet it would be difficult for me (or him) to prove it wasn’t the 6 foot dangerous man that was at fault, but the wee 5′ 6 lass.
He helped a fellow human being who was being wronged. As long as we have those kind of people, Britain will survive. We’ll get through 24 hour drinking, happy slapping, vandalism, and even gangs. As long as we don’t get afraid, or worse – apathetic, we’ll get by just fine. Don’t get me wrong, people need to take more responsibility for their actions. If they eat unhealthily, they’re going to get ill later in life. If they smoke, they’ll increasse the liklihood of getting cancer. If they drink, they are going to stupid things. I don’t have a problem with people doing any of these. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, people can do just about whatever they like, so long as it doesn’t impinge on other folk. And with things that have an increased chance of stupidity (drink, drugs, I’m looking at you) there needs to be *more* responsibility, not less. Or none, like there seems to be for a few people.
I charge everyone to act like the man that helped me. Instead of reading your newspapers as hard as you can, intervene. That is all.